reviews july 2001

The Starries, The Years Are Hers (Bearos) 7"

Melodic hardcore distinguished mostly by the singer's near terminal throat frog on the A-side. Things perk up on the flip and we're back in the territory that made their debut split with Jameson such a gem. Water Flow careers through its length like a steamroller down a steep hill, crushing all in its wake and veering crazily across the road. The band just hang on for dear life and try to enjoy the ragged bendiness.

Montana Pete, Devo (Coin Operated) 7"

I like the cut of Montana Pete's jib. I like their sonic frugality and the clean-cut clinical precision of guitar, bass and drums mixed to the Albini standard. More angular than a middle-aged bachelor with a set square collection, they chop and chang with the best of 'em and never overrun the 3-minute limit. Despite the title, there's nothing Devo about the A-side but then the B-side is called French Ladies and if that's a woman singing je mangerai mon beret. PO Box 24356, London, SW17 9FE

Goblin Universe, Here Comes Gnome (Rocket Number 9) 7"

There was an Australian band, Ratcat, that were briefly popular over here about ten years ago. I saw them play a couple of times on the fraggle circuit and somewhere along the way picked up their Tingles 6-tracker from a second hand shop (God bless second hand shops.) Ratcat had a canny way of charming half a tune from half-tuned guitars, almost like J. Mascis was pulling the strings having somehow banished his inbuilt desire to fuck everything up with masses of distortion. Getting Away (From This World) was Husker Du at half speed and halfway to the moon and, unlike many records of that era (stand up Ned's Atomic Dustbin) Tingles still gets dusted off and given the occasional spin. So it was something of a delight to find that Goblin Universe's latest outing for Rocket Number Nine has the same sleight of hand and the same (un)tuneful knack. Hands, the pick of these four, takes the space theme on a spell, ditching Grant Hart and replacing him with Brian Wilson. It is Elephant Six at the gates of grunge.

hinageshi bondage, Deisel Fruit My Darling (Verdura) 7"

One of those records that has a certain masochistic, solipsistic appeal but which you will never ever put on the Sinatra and Friends compilations you do for your gran. The sound of machines being slowly crushed and animals being slowly tortured on a dark, cold night somewhere north of the Arctic Circle.

Magoo, Nastro Adhesivo 7"

Sounds like an expensive beer served in mid-market pizza restaurants with the unwelcome side effect of gluing your lips together. Alternatively, sounds like Magoo have turned up to 11, have one foot on the monitors and the other foot on the gas. Also on this one-side promo, a pretty faithful cover of Beefheart's Big Eyed Beans From Venus which strictly speaking isn't necessary (could the original ever be topped?) but is certainly fun.

S.I.Futures, We Are Not A Rock Band (Novamute) 12"

"We are not a rock band but we rock the house." It's probably not much of a revelation to you but some people haven't yet realised that guitars are no longer required, or even desired, for a good time. S.I.Futures - our old friend and alias farmer Si Begg/ Cabbage Boy/ BuckFunk 3000 and so on - injects acid into Kraftwerks motorik vein, flips a couple of weirdo switches and, well, rocks the house. Remixes come courtesy of himself, naturally.

Snoop Dogg, Lay Low/ NWA, Gangsta Gangsta/ Dopeman (both Priority) 12"

Snoop drops the NWA name into his typically underplayed flow during Lay Low. He shouldn't have bothered. Compared the second hand shop treat picked up the other day, Lay Low is very small beer indeed. Gangsta Gangsta rocks like Vesuvius on a busy day, a hailstorm of harsh rhyming and harsher, hardknock beatbox. Dr Dre produced both records and while I'm for progress as much as the next cynical rose-tinted spectacle wearer (I mean, where would we be without Betamax, the Sinclair C5 and Wap phones?) can we really say that 15 years on Snoop's new one is anything other than a backward step? Where's the edge? Where's the vitality? Where's the sound of the street? What's this singing doing on here? What, most of all, what happened to the beats? Lay Low? Please do.

Wauvenfold, On The Blink (Wichita) CDS

Stab, first up, is effectively the title track. It's the death rattle of a personal computer unable to cope with the digital deluge that connecting to the internet provokes these days. The hum and buzz of a purring modem gives way to the crippled lurching of an overloaded processor, the fractured gnashing of berserk printers and the low bass grind of a hard drive evacuating itself.

Various, Havock Junction (Sorted) CD

Pay No More Than 3.99. There's something reassuringly old school about the slogan emblazoned across the front of Havock Junction. There's something resolutely old school about the Sorted label in general, sticking with loss-making 7" singles, sticking with unfashionable Leicester and sticking with those now-defunct shouty bastards, Prolapse. Speaking of which, the angry dronesters bookend proceedings with two previously unreleased gems. Between them we have some 80s throwback indie pop, some weirdy electronica, some noise, the cream of the East Midlands cognoscenti and 16 bands that've appeared on Sorted's 7" menu over the last few years. You can of course pick your own selection, with your own italicised descriptions, but I favour The Chemistry Experiment's undersea world of muted electro (or Pram in the bath), The Freed Unit's intercepted alien communications (or SETI get a hit while Mantronik tunes up), another of Fish From Tahiti's loop and cut-up gags (or Public Service Announcements go disco), Dalmation Rex pulling a schizo R'n'B/ easy listening stunt (or Crazyhead with a fluctuating migraine) and Voon's Pilchard's of Death blues (or wannabee Goons with Shambolic ability and zany gene enhancements).

The Static Waves/ Airport Girl, split (Sorted) 7"

The Static Waves, on this occasion, are Fugazi with Attention Deficit Disorder thrashing out a Pavement cover. When they can keep their minds on the job. The rest of the time they're daydreaming about a cold pint on a hot day. Airport Girl have a milder case of the same condition but the trashy noise is never as intense, the pastoral noodling is never as quiet and Postcard never released a Pavement record.

Theory of Everything, Return To Eden (Addison) 7"

The idea of a theory of everything, a grand unified theory, is not new. Nor, despite the best intentions of bearded scientists with ugly foot-wide ties and esoteric ideas is it likely to succeed in the near future.. You're beginning to think you can see where this one's going, aren't you. Well, let's be fair, Return To Eden is a good debut, its aspirations are towards the epic arrangement, it would like to soar and it wants to suck listeners in, chew them up and spit them back out as altered people, better people. It wants to do all that, but for now it just hints that later records might. And I know it's bizarre to say so, but I'd love to hear Bad Manners cover this at twice the speed.

Cuban Boys, EMI (Damaged Goods) 7"/ Murray On Track CDR

Skreen B, the media svengali behind the Cuban Boys, the man who kicked off the Cuban phenomenon by starting a whispering campaign about Noel Gallagher being in the band, the man who was arrested on suspicion of being a rent boy as he left Cuban Boys tapes in phone boxes around Soho, the man who persuaded EMI to sign a bunch of misfit chancers on the basis of a single track ripped off from a dancing hamster, the man who orchestrated a slow-burn takeover of Radio One's playlist from Peel upwards, yes, that Skreen B. Well, he lives at home in Eastbourne with his mom and dad. And that's the reason I love the Cuban Boys.

Their entirely amateurish, and nice, and British, attempt at pop superstardom seemed to be working for a while, until EMI dicked them around and ultimately dropped them when contractual obligations had been fulfilled, even after Cognoscenti vs Intelligentsia was a massive hit. But then, being entirely amateurish, its completely in character that the Cubans decided to petulantly, childishly, release a cover of the Sex Pistols' EMI as a catty fuck-you to the suits. It sounds like EMF with a mild headache. It is magnificent. With more spare time on their hands now, the Boys have also stuffed a large number of Murray Walker samples over a predictable disco-cum-pop Casio preset in the name of a tribute to the great man. Against all the odds, and like the Cuban Boys themselves, it is brilliant.

Various, Furballs of Frustration/ Hairballs of Hysteria (Bloated Sasquatch Beer Theatre Audio) both CD

In a parallel universe somewhere, an earnest ex-schoolteacher is living off the royalties of an occasionally-decent post-punk band that went pop and a solo career that is distinguished by precisely nothing except a gaping lack of tunes and a tedious interest in the rain forests. In this parallel universe, one of our ex-schoolteacher's better known hits (most are best forgotten) was called A Canadian In Denmark. It is about Christian Kann, a chap who cares enough to put out CDs of bands from his adopted country, and to do it well, and to find at least four fantastic bands in the process. Popular Organs are an overtly electronic Pavement and Quicke is over all too quickly. Sfu-ma-to (your guess is as good as mine) play bedroom guitar blues with a double-tracked French vocal and call it Psychomotorique. Elta'sin are Noise Addict; all basic ability, charm and naivety from an acoustic guitar and a child's-eye view while Tsk Tsk Tsk's Funky Rapper is ridiculously clumsy electro cheese with rapping by a teenager talking through a burp.

John Bartles, Liar (CD)

Also known as Big Fat Whitey (see elsewhere) where he adopts a white trash, beer and chips and trailer park persona, Bartles is (he claims, but check the title) up to his 42nd album. Here as himself, the music is still largely bar-room blues with a bit of country and an entirely welcome Tom Waits tendency. Unfortunately, without a context for the humour, jokes like Who Flung Poo? aren't funny and I Licked The Sores of The Babylon Whore just grate. And if there's a point to Little Black Jesus, I certainly missed it. Get Big Fat Whitey instead. PO Box 106, Livonia Center, New York 14488, USA

Salvatore, Clingfilm (Racing Junior) CD

The kraut/post-rock interface. It's like running on the spot. You get all the benefits of a jog round the block but you don't have to leave the living room. So while Salvatore hurtle along, all muscles getting a full workout, by repetitious reinvention they never actually move at all. Trans Am are the best point of contact although they've always been harder to pin down.

Sketch, Zincanode (Racing Junior) CD

You're on the edge of a jungle clearing. At its centre is a large fire over which a group of the local Somnamb tribe is roasting a large animal. Drums start up and a dance slowly condenses from the Brownian movements of the folk around the fire and drumming starts up. A character - obviously a witchdoctor - emerges from the far side of the clearing. He is clad only in dyed monkey skins and carries a sack fabricated from the stomach of something ugly. His face is painted a garish shade of green and in the flickering firelight he appears inhuman. As he sways towards the fire his left hand slips into the sack and removes two bulbs which he peels like onions and, as the dance tightens, casts into the flames. A cloud of smoke rushes upwards and the dancers pause to inhale deeply before continuing, all in time to an unusual beat. As you watch, the smoke begins to drift towards your hiding place. You cannot move for fear of detection, so you have no choice but to join the dancers and breathe in. You remember nothing from that point on, until someone plays you Zincanode by Sketch and the slowed-down gyrations and psychedelic tropical ambience returns. You sleep.

Eltro, Velodrome (Absolutely Kosher)/ Snowpony, Sea Shanties For Spaceships (Dead Pan Alley) both CD

"This could be the bastard offspring of Lee Perry, Motorhead and Fairport Convention" chirps the sticker on the back of Snowpony's self-released second album. It isn't, but some of the tracks on Eltro's Veldrome come close with Vera Wang notably dubbing out, fuzzing up and slowly folking off. The album cycles (God, I just kill myself sometimes: Velodrome - cycles. I'm wasted in this fanzine) along massively mellow space trajectories, a child of the Philadephia psyche scene (check out Rocket Girl's Psychedelphia compilation for compatriots) and a distant, and chilled, relative of Broadcast.

Snowpony, against all expectations, have made a superb record. I listened to it on repeat the weekend I was decorating the bathroom. Kirsty MacColl fronting the band that Curve might've turned into had they aged gracefully and started listening to funkier records.

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